No More Mind Games: Content Analysis of In-Game Commentary of the National Football League’s Concussion Problem

by Jeffrey Parker

Institution: Wilfrid Laurier University
Year: 2016
Keywords: concussions; football; media representations; criminology; public health; American Popular Culture; Broadcast and Video Studies; Criminology; Criminology and Criminal Justice; Critical and Cultural Studies; Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law; Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication; Health Policy; Mass Communication; Other Film and Media Studies; Public Relations and Advertising; Social Influence and Political Communication; Sociology of Culture; Sports Studies; Television
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2130470
Full text PDF: http://scholars.wlu.ca/etd/1800


American (gridiron) football played at the professional level in the National Football League (NFL) is an inherently physical spectator sport, in which players frequently engage in significant contact to the head and upper body. Until recently, the long-term health consequences associated with on the field head trauma were not fully disclosed to players or the public, potentially misrepresenting the dangers involved in gameplay. Crucial to the dissemination of this information to the public are in-game televised commentators of NFL games, regarded as the primary conduits for mediating in-game narratives to the viewing audience. Using a social constructionist theoretical lens, this study aimed at identifying how Game Commentators represented in-game head trauma and concussions during NFL games for viewer consumption, through a content analysis of 102 randomly sampled regular season games, over the course of six seasons (2009-2014). Specifically, this research questioned the frequency and prevalence of significant contact, commentator representations of significant player contact, commentator representations of the players involved in significant contact and commentator communication of the severity of health hazards and consequences associated with significant contact. Observed during the content analysis were 226 individual incidents of significant contact. Findings indicate that commentator representations of significant contact did not appropriately convey the potential health consequences associated with head trauma and concussions to the viewing audience. Instead, incidents of significant contact were constructed by commentators as glorified instances of violence, physicality and masculinity- largely devoid and diffusive of the severity of health consequences associated with head injuries and concussions.